Less Government Means Less Defense Spending, Too
Arthur Brooks, Edwin Feulner and William Kristol claim that military spending is not the prime driver of our current fiscal crisis, but the Pentagon accounts for 23% of the federal budget ("Peace Doesn't Keep Itself," op-ed, Oct. 4). It is inconceivable that this spending should be exempt from scrutiny in a time of soaring deficits.
Rather than Congress constantly writing a blank check, the process of military budgeting should begin with a discussion about security necessities and their costs. That isn't a discussion that Messrs. Brooks, Feulner and Kristol seem anxious to engage in—unsurprisingly, since all three support the disastrous military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of course, cutting spending without a corresponding reduction in commitments is a recipe for overburdening service members taxed by too frequent deployments to far-flung places. But it is already obvious that most of what America spends on its military—often erroneously labeled "national defense"—really defends others who can and should defend themselves.
It's time for advocates of free markets and limited government to recognize that a vast military presence around the world is utterly inconsistent with those ideals. If we agree that government intervention domestically often has unintended, harmful consequences, we should recognize that the same principle holds true internationally, in spades. If we believe that the Constitution created a government whose most important duty is to "provide for the common defence" and "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity," we should not be so willing to deploy the sharp end of that government's power in support of those who are not parties to our unique social contract.
The Brooks-Feulner-Kristol approach to military spending amounts to another form of foreign aid, a massive wealth transfer from Americans to non-Americans, helping them finance generous social welfare systems. It is time to get our allies off the dole.
The Cato Institute